Monday, September 15, 2008

Chuck and me

When one of my students this past summer told me that the way I talked in tutorial reminded her of Chuck Klosterman, I wasn't sure whether I should be entirely flattered. Chuck Klosterman has a quite amusing and acerbic wit about him, but he's also a bit of an incorrigible and apolitical - or at least politically incoherent - asshole. (But the kind of asshole that you think secretly hates you but pretends to like you, rather than the kind that you're afraid will punch you in the face.)

But I've been reading Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs little by little over the past couple weeks, and I've come to realize that, whether I should feel flattered or not by the comparison, this student may have been on to a little something. For instance:
  • Chuck and I find the kids in Trix commercials to be needlessly* cruel to the rabbit.
  • Chuck wears black-rimmed, geek-chic glasses; I sometimes wish that I did.
  • Chuck and I both sometimes suspect that we're the only people in the world who liked Vanilla Sky.
  • Chuck and I both hate the emphasis that music critics put on the cleverness of lyrics. But for different reasons: he prefers lyrics that are immediate and relate-able, while I'm w(e)ary of cleverness-for-its-own sake because it's usually bereft of a meaningful or coherent politics
  • Chuck and I are both one trick-ponies in our writing on pop culture. Despite the packaging, every essay Chuck writes about a pop cultural text can be reduced to a "this is actually a metaphor for real life"-style thesis; despite the packaging, everything I write about a pop cultural text can be reduced to 1) the ironic swerve, and 2) the politically oppressive message that it's secretly spreading. (But I'm probably giving myself too much credit and Chuck too little - for all its pomp, my two-part reduction is actually just a fancier, cynical version of "this is a actually a metaphor for real life".)
* Well, maybe not "needlessly". Chuck describes their interaction as a metaphor for how 'childhood cool' works. I just thought they were jerks.


scott91777 said...

Hey Neil,

Scott from over at Geoff Klock's blog (I'm one of the regular guest bloggers). Klosterman is actually a favorite of mine... I kind of like his incorrigibility, I teach Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs in my English 101 and 102 classes. The kids love it and, honestly, I've probably sold over a thousand books for the guy at this point considering that my students enjoy the books so much that they reccomend him to friends who reccomend him to friends etc.

Anyway, it doesn't have the greatest depth to it but it works as a nice, easy intro to Pop Culture studies. Have you read any of his other stuff? Killing Yourself to Live is quite good. In it, pop culture becomes a metaphor for not just life but his life specifically and it even shifts into a sort of semi-fictional narrative at points (it's subtitle is 75% a true story).

neilshyminsky said...

I haven't read any of his other stuff - well, accept for his '10 most accurately rated bands' list. But I can see what you mean about a nice, easy intro into studying pop culture: his voice is really accessible and immediate. Which is to say that he manages to sound both clever and like a real person, which is no minor feat.